>COPA smackdown!

>Last week a federal judge struck down the Child Online Protection Act, ruling that it was overly broad and unconstitutional. As reported in the New York Times: “Despite my personal regret at having to set aside yet another attempt to protect our children from harmful material,” Judge Reed wrote, he was blocking the law out of concern that “perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”

The decision is the result of a legal challenge, filed by the ACLU and several other plaintiffs, which had been underway since shortly after COPA became law in 1998. Under the provisions of COPA , websites would face severe penalties for failing to restrict access to “materials harmful to minors,” with such a broad definition as to go beyond the usual (already suspect) standards of obscenity to possibly include mere nudity.

(Alright, we know the old adage about laws and sausages, but we just had to look. Here’s an actual COPA passage: “…depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast; and…“)

With the growth of web-based video sites and online distribution, the ruling is a definite positive, not just for our friends in the porn adult entertainment industry, but for every filmmaker looking to push even the slightest provocative edge – “Oh, my. Is that a post-pubescent female breast?!?” – in their work.

But before you start getting too jiggy on the internet, keep in mind that, despite seeming beliefs to the contrary, a particularly onerous obscenity provision of the Communications Decency Act still remains on the books, along with the lingering possibility of receiving an unexpected and most unwelcome greeting from a western Pennsylvia-based prosecutor’s office.

And, of course, there’s all that 2257 rigamoral to be sorted out.

But still, a smackdown is a smackdown. Prost!


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